sipho dlamini
Sipho Dlamini. Picture: universalmusic.com

Vivendi’s Universal Music Group (UMG) will launch a new division in Nigeria as part of efforts by the world’s largest music label to expand into Africa’s most populous nation and the wider region.

The music entertainment group said on Tuesday its new strategic division, Universal Music Nigeria, will operate from Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos.

Nigerian music, much like its Nollywood film industry, is popular across much of Africa. Nigerian music artists have popularised the Afrobeat musical genre and gone on to sign record deals, sell out concerts and work with international artists to increase the global reach of African music.

Music revenue in Nigeria – mostly derived from sales of mobile phone ringtones – grew 9% in 2016, year-on-year, to reach $39 million and is expected to rise to $73 million by 2021, auditing firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) said last year.

Sipho Dlamini, Managing Director of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, said that the Nigeria division will focus on developing artists and musicians from West Africa countries, particularly Nigeria, Ghana and Gambia.

“Our Nigeria team will support, nurture, and help develop artists, while creating opportunities for new talent from the region to reach the widest possible audience,” said Dlamini.

UMG said the new division will work alongside the label’s existing operations in Ivory Coast and Morocco.

Universal Music Nigeria also plans to open a recording studio in Lagos, which would be the label’s second fully purposed studio in Africa alongside another in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nigeria’s music industry faces an array of challenges ranging from the lack of proper legal structures, to piracy and difficulties in distributing and monetising content.

The country’s arts, entertainment and recreation sector contributed 0.29 percent to real GDP in the first quarter of this year, the statistics office said.

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